Tuesday 26 January 2016


Alphadi flanked by models. (Photo: UNESCO/P.Chiang-Joo)
The acclaimed African fashion designer Sidahmed Alphadi Seidnaly, or Alphadi, was designated a UNESCO Artist for Peace on Jan. 25, in a ceremony at the Paris headquarters of the United Nation’s cultural agency.

UNESCO's director-general, Irina Bokova, said the honour was in recognition of Alphadi’s “commitment to culture and development at the service of peace, respect and human dignity, and for his contribution to the promotion of tolerance”.

Alphadi and UNESCO's Director General Irina Bokova.
(Photo courtesy of UNESCO/P.Chiang-Joo)
Alphadi’s work has had a huge impact on many designers of African origin, in France and elsewhere. The Paris-based stylist Vanessa Augris told SWAN that he has been an inspiration to her and a generation of other fashion creators.

“He is one of the most important African designers,” she said. “And his work has really helped to advance the appreciation of African fashion.”

Alphadi was born in Timbuktu, Mali, in 1957, and grew up in Niger. He studied in France and is a graduate of the Atelier Chardon Savard school of fashion and design, located in Paris. Admirers describe him as the “magician of the desert”, and he has been recognized by other internationally known designers such as Takada Kenzo, Paco Rabanne and the late Yves Saint Laurent.

One of his major accomplishments is the creation of the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), which he launched in 1998 in Niger’s Tiguidit area of the Sahara desert, under the auspices of UNESCO. 

One of Alphadi's designs shown at UNESCO
The Festival has since become a place of “exchange and dialogue between cultures from all over the world”, according to the UN agency.

As a UNESCO Artist for Peace, Alphadi will work to transform FIMA into an itinerant event so that the next editions may take place in other African countries, notably Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, UNESCO said. The designer intends to develop the festival’s educational function as well.

He has already created the Alphadi Foundation, which works to improve the lives of women and children in the Sahara and helps create and develop employment in the region, UNESCO added.

In a speech at his designation ceremony, Alphadi deplored the rise of intolerance and said he would work to boost peace, culture and development.

“We need to create a world of love and lasting peace,” he said. “I will use all my energies to build peace through fashion and the arts.”

He then presented a runway show that highlighted the designs for which he has become known: modern garments that combine striking colour, glamour and traditional influences.

A model shows off Alphadi's creativity. (Photo: UNESCO/P Chiang-Joo)